Ask Your Advocate: Winter Heating Bill Woes

How to lighten the load on your wallet

My heating bill tends to be very high each winter. What can I do to keep costs down?

—R. Brown Hartford, CT

Winters can be tough on the wallet, but there are several steps you can take to keep cash in your pocket:

Request a payment plan. Ask your energy provider if it offers a level payment plan. These plans allow you to pay a set amount each month based on factors such as your household’s past energy use. At the end of the year, you pay the difference between your provider’s projection and your actual usage if more energy was used. However, you’ll get a refund or credit if you used less energy.

Inspect your furnace. It’s a good idea to schedule a furnace inspection each fall. If your furnace is more than 15 years old, it is likely time for a replacement. You should also replace your filter each winter. An efficient filter will keep air circulating properly and prevent the furnace from working harder than it needs to. You can purchase a filter for about $20 from home improvement stores.

Seal and insulate your home. Sealing cracks and openings in your home will keep warm air in and cold air out. Energy Star features a guide that will show you how to do this, entitled A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating with Energy Star. It can be accessed on Energy Star’s Website when you click on the home improvement tab.

Sheiresa Ngo is the consumer affairs editor at Black Enterprise magazine.

ACROSS THE WEB